Wednesday, June 20, 2007
In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti
I’ve been trying for 10 years to find a church that would welcome my family. I know it sounds odd that I haven’t had any luck in those 10 years, but it’s true. It sounds really odd to me also.
I was raised in the Catholic Church. Friday night brought fish for dinner, and Sunday mornings meant church. As my teenage years approached, the Catholic Church approved conducting mass on Saturday nights, and my parents switched to that so we could sleep in on Sundays. While I probably grumbled about having to attend mass, I know I found a comfort in it – a realization that there were forces greater than myself, forces I could turn to in times of distress. That comfort has accompanied me through the many tribulations of my life, and is a peace that I continually still turn towards. Sadness overwhelms me, however, that I have not brought my children to that same peace and comfort.
I’ve visited Catholic churches, Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, non-denominational churches, and several others without labels. The visits have played out the same regardless of the doctrine of the church. We arrive as a family – two children in wheelchairs, two walking. Jessica is friendly and outgoing but doesn’t understand that exuberance does not always have a place in a house of worship. Corey drums his ADHD-inspired head beat on the backs of pews or benches, bringing looks from the other church-goers of “Can’t you control that child?” Ashley is just Ashley – loudly vocal, fidgeting on the scale of Paul Bunyan, and with an overwhelming curiosity that leads her to touch, taste, and otherwise examine every surface around her. I can usually count on about 5 minutes before one of the “proper” church-goers turns to me and suggests I take the children to the nursery. But, there’s a problem with that also.
Nurseries are for babies and very young children. My children are teenagers. While Jessica would be very happy to interact with 4 year olds, my attempts to instruct her in ways appropriate to her age would be undermined. Put Ashley in a room with toddlers, and in no time one of the young children would be hurt because Ashley is the size of an adult and is blind. She can’t see the small children standing in front of her as she mows them down. And like Jessica, Ashley needs to be with her peers.
The next suggestion I usually hear is Sunday school. Oh, how I would love for all my children to attend Sunday school. But until I find a church where someone can both communicate in sign language with Ashley and assist her with orientation and mobility, not to mention helping both her and Jessica with activities of daily living (eating, toileting, etc), Sunday school is not really an option.
So there’s the rub – my children are not wanted in the church during service – they are not wanted or cannnot be accommodated outside the service – and I can’t leave some of them home and take the others. I refuse to believe however that a church that can accommodate us as a family doesn’t exist. I am, though, very tired of looking. My children have experienced enough rejection in their lives and should not have to experience it in a church of so-called Christian people. While I would really like to hear from other parents like me who have solved this problem, for the time being we will be worshipping in solitude. And, I hope I can provide enough of an example for all my children that they, too, will find the comfort that I have found in God.